By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An English country manor, a gaggle of giggling bachelorettes, a slew of butlers and one very mysterious ginger-haired Prince Charming are at the center of Fox's new dating show, where the bachelor is not quite what he seems.
Meet Matt Hicks, the 24-year-old British environmental consultant who bears more than a passing resemblance to Britain's Prince Harry, and was given the task of persuading 12 American girls that they were vying to date the fun-loving royal.
"As far as I was aware, impersonating a member of the royal family was treason and I'm pretty sure the punishment for that was being locked in the Tower of London," Hicks told Reuters.
Premiering on Tuesday, Fox's "I Wanna Marry Harry" spins a twist on the televised dating format used most notably by ABC for "The Bachelor," where one man is charged with finding love from a group of 25 women, honing it down to the lucky one over a series of glamorous and drama-filled dates.
Hicks, brought up in Hertfordshire, a neighboring county to London, went to Southampton University, graduating with a degree in geology and oceanography, a different path from his royal look-alike's military career.
In "I Wanna Marry Harry," Hicks was sought by the show's producers after being spotted on a celebrity look-alike website, and was given the ultimate makeover. They dyed his blond hair red, gave him intensive training on royal family history and put him in a manor house with guards and a facade of wealth.
His quest, over five weeks and a series of dates, is to persuade the girls that he really is the 29-year-old prince, and at the end, to reveal his true identity to the one girl left, and hope that she accepts him for his real self.
"There was a lot of weight on my shoulders, they had put a massive budget on this, but I was never really too worried about not pulling it off," Hicks said. "It was just down to being genuine and charming and getting the girls to like me."
The female contenders for Hicks' affection range between Rose, the saucy 22-year-old pre-school teacher to 25-year-old Karina, studying for a PhD in physical therapy. All have quite an impact on Hicks when he first meets them at a masquerade ball, where they already suspect he may be Harry.
Hicks, who never once calls himself Harry and is referred to throughout the show as "Sir" or "The Gentleman," said he never thought the show's premise was mean or deceiving to the girls, despite him masquerading as the prince.
"They put themselves in this situation," he said. "They're not weak, mentally fragile girls who especially might break down, and at the end of the day we're all there for a laugh."
And as for what the real Prince Harry may think of the show?
"I think he'd think it was quite funny," he said.
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Andrew Hay)